General Election: Observer Column

Like the rest of the country, Tuesday's announcement to call a General Election caught me by surprise. I was in my Westminster office, answering constituent emails, when my staff member popped his head around the door to ask what I thought 'the announcement' was all about. Ten minutes after professing ignorance to both the announcement and the potential content, I was sitting contemplating another General Election and what this would mean.

Politics aside, this has an immediate effect on my role as your MP. Whilst the election will not be held until June 8th, my role ceases on May 2nd after Parliament is dissolved. My security pass will be revoked, my office in Westminster has to be emptied and my access to my email account and all of my casework will cease. I therefore have a lot of work to do in the ten days remaining in order to close the books.

Any legislation which has yet to complete its passage will also fall by the wayside. Next week, there will be a scramble to pass bills which are close to the finishing line. Many other Acts of Parliament, having already been debated and scrutinised for hours, will fail to reach the statue books and cannot be picked up where we left off after the election. In the Transport Select Committee, our five part inquiry on Urban Congestion will have to start again because our report has not been drafted and will not be agreed in time. The VW inquiry also falls. This is the procedural aspect which is not covered by the media when the drama of an election is announced. At least my Autism in Education inquiry, which I started this week, will survive as it is a cross-party inquiry.

Back to the politics, Parliament sits for a fixed term of five years. Two thirds of MPs have to vote before an early election can be called. 522 MPs duly did so. The Prime Minister has called this election because she feels that the weight of a strong majority for five years will strengthen her hand in exit negotiations with the EU. East Sussex is likely to be at the centre of political attention. Of the six seats, four have tended to be narrowly contested. Across the County border, Hove is a Labour seat which was captured from the Conservatives at the last election. It is bound to be a key seat for both parties.

As for me, I have to decide whether to ask my local party to adopt me again and fight for another term. My local party then have to decide if they want me. When I was elected less than two years ago, I made it my mission to work with as much of the constituency, and constituents, as quickly as I could. I am glad I ignored the well-meaning advice that 'you've got five years, slow down and don't put it all in to two'. It caused me to re-rupture my Achilles tendon but, now I have to put my record for the last two years to the public, it may have been worth it.

Those who are fascinated by politics will enjoy the next 47 days, watching a duel develop between very contrasting political parties and positions. Those turned off by the tribal and sometimes banal exchanges, will hope that the fine weather continues.